Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It's gonna be crowded!

PROVO — Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are meeting with neighbors and making plans for the expansion of the Missionary Training Center in Provo.
LDS Church leaders expect the number of missionaries housed in the Provo MTC to raise from 2,800 to 7,800 this summer. By 2016, they expect the number to dip back down to 6,000, but steadily rise between then and 2030 to 7,500. To house the upcoming wave of missionaries, the church has leased two Brigham Young University-approved apartment complexes, Raintree and Wyview Park, and missionaries called to serve in Latin American countries will train in the new Mexico City MTC. But for a long-term solution, church leaders are exploring two possibilities.

The first option would expand the MTC campus on 27 acres to the northeast, across the street from the MTC near the Provo Temple that are currently a large playing field and parking areas. The second would replace 12 acres of BYU service buildings to the south of the MTC. The university would have to relocate those facilities. Last November and this March, LDS Church representatives met with neighbors to review both choices. Their homes are very close — about a single car space or a footpath — to the land.

"Church representatives have met with area residents multiple times to describe the need for growth of the MTC campus and to get feedback from the community," said LDS Church spokesperson Scott Trotter. "While residents have varying opinions, significant adjustments have been made based on input from neighbors, Brigham Young University and Provo City. We are grateful for the time and energy invested by the community."

Neighbors who opposed the nine-story building on the MTC campus last year say Mormons have ostracized them. Though neighbors say straw polls do not favor one plan over the other, they said they are grateful to be part of the conversation and happy that church leaders are remembering promises made about MTC expansion in 1976.

"The northeastern plan respects the promises that were made to the legacy neighbors, so the legacy neighbors strongly support the northeastern plan," said Lorie Johnson, who represents the group Legacy Neighbors.
A city representative said they are anxious to see the church's plans and begin discussions with the planning commission and city council about possible zoning changes the plans would require.

"I know that things have gone through changes and different people going through different ideas," said Provo City Deputy Mayor Corey Norman. "We're really waiting to get something solid, something that meets the objectives of the MTC and also protects the integrity of the neighborhood."

Church leaders say they are "carefully evaluating long-term solutions" for the expansion. Currently, no timetable has been set for the expansion construction, though modification on both leased apartment complexes begins Wednesday to meet this summer's needs.

By the numbers
Missionaries currently serving: 64,373
Average number of missionaries called per week: 1,400 per week since 1 January 2013
Percentage of sisters being called: 36 percent since Jan. 1
Percentage of elders being called: 57 percent since Jan. 1
Percentage of seniors being called: 7 percent since Jan. 1

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